USA: Bellingham Bay Cleanup Plans Move Ahead

Environmental investigation will resume this week at the I & J Waterway cleanup site in Bellingham Bay.

Contractors working for the Port of Bellingham will collect sediment samples from the bay and the beach Tuesday, April 24, and Wednesday, April 25, 2012. They expect to collect samples from storm drains the following week.

This round of sampling and analysis will add to information already collected at the site. The port is doing the work according to a work plan that is part of an amended legal agreement, called an agreed order. The legal agreement details the steps the port is taking to complete the environmental investigation and analysis of cleanup options. Results will be compiled in a report called a remedial investigation and feasibility study, which should be ready for public review in 2013.

The work is being done according to the state’s voter-approved cleanup law, the Model Toxics Control Act, and is overseen by the Department of Ecology.

The I & J Waterway cleanup site is about 2.5 acres in Bellingham Bay, between Hilton Avenue and Bellwether Way. The port and the state of Washington own property within the site.

Portions of the site were used for lumber mill operations from the early 1900s through 1972. Other industries within the site boundaries included a rock-crushing plant and frozen food processing plant. A seafood processing plant has been in operation there since 1959.

Investigations so far indicate the presence of hazardous substances in sediments at concentrations that must be addressed under the Model Toxics Control Act. Contaminants include phthalate compounds, polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbon compounds, phenol compounds, mercury, and dioxins and furans.

Work at the site was put on hold in 2007 while state and federal agencies updated the dioxin guidelines for Puget Sound, and while Ecology made progress on updating its Sediment Management Standards. These updates provide the framework to address widespread contaminants such as dioxins and furans.

The additional investigation and analysis will cost an estimated $130,000. Total cost for the study and report is estimated at $275,000. Ecology will reimburse up to half the port’s costs for work performed at the I & J Waterway site. Reimbursements come from the state’s remedial action grant program, which helps pay to clean up publicly owned sites. The state Legislature funds the grant program with revenues from a voter-approved tax on hazardous substances.

I & J Waterway is one of the 12 cleanup sites in the Bellingham Bay Demonstration Pilot – a multi-agency, collaborative effort to cleanup pollution, control pollution sources, restore habitat and carry out land use plans throughout the bay. The pilot program is a major step toward restoring Puget Sound, and it is a model for other large-scale cleanup initiatives.

Dredging Today Staff, April 25, 2012;

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